Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Seven Quick Takes

1. Today I sat my third-grader down in front of Khan Academy for a refresher on how borrowing in subtraction works (good news: he remembered quickly, so I guess we'll retry that math test), and spent all my school time utzing the first-grader through her lessons. I pulled a page of sentences from the reading program she's taken against because I needed to test some sight words (good news: she recognizes "you" and "the", finally). She stamped and pouted through the first half, and ended up sitting on the floor.

"Look," I said. "We can spend all day in this room at this table trying to get through this page. Do you want to do that?"


"Or, you can work with me and look at the page while you're reading, and we can be done very soon."


"I'm going to count to three."

Bottom in the chair.

"All right. Let's get this done fast. It's 12:58. I'm writing it down. Then we'll write down the time you finish and see how fast it goes. Are you looking at the page?"

She started reluctantly, but read faster as we reached the end, and finished the six sentences by 1:02. Success

2. Then it was math: writing number sentences based on word problems.  Stamp, stamp.

"Let's check this out. 'Matt has 8 pens. He gives 3 away to Sal. How many pens does he have left?'"


"It says he gives three away, and then asks how many he has left. Are those addition words or subtraction words?"

She sulkily drew a minus sign in the bubble.

"Okay, how many does he start with? And then how many do we take away? Let's try it with fingers."

And so on. She was figuring it out but not loving it. Each successive problem drew fresh moans. Eventually I took to having her dictate the answers while I wrote. So on to the last problem.

"Jan has 7 cats. She gives 2 cats to Nick..."


"Did you count that up?"

"I know it in my head."

I raged. I yelled. I crumpled up the finished paper and threw across the room as she collapsed into proud giggles. Then she ran off, and I sighed and collected the phonics book for the next round. Fortunately, she likes phonics.

3. The first-grader wants to learn cursive, so we have a notebook in which each day I write a letter and have her copy it and practice joining it. If she wants to write cursive, we'll do cursive.

4. Obviously, sometimes something you're doing with your children is simply not working, and you need to pivot. And children all learn in different styles, so that needs to be taken into account. But in general, I've found over the years, with my own children, that when they balk and fuss at schoolwork, it's simply that they'd rather not be doing schoolwork. A sentiment many people share, I'm sure, but it's not going to fly when you need to learn to multiply or read. I don't think that education needs to be tedious all the time, but sometimes learning is work and just needs to be done. And sometimes the discipline of keeping your bottom in your chair until you finish your work is acquired by your mother repeatedly placing the bottom in the chair until the work is complete.

5. And later on, this can translate into older children having the discipline to supervise their own work and schedule, while their mother instills discipline into the younger ones.

6. Speaking of older kids and their work, I say again that although the lesson plans from Catholic Heritage Curriculum have worked out well for the big girls, the actual materials are so frustrating that we certainly will be doing something else next school year. It's so Catholicky. Everything in every subject must be explicitly tied to the Church. This is one path for children raised in fervently religious homes to fall away when they're independent. No truth is allowed to stand on its own merits. It must become a pious bludgeon for Catholicism. And eventually the children learn to associate the truth of Catholicism with the bludgeon and not the piety.

Not in my house.

7. To be honest, a lot of our time lately has been spent watching Studio C sketches on Youtube. This is a group out of Brigham Young University, and they do clean SNL-style sketches that are consistently hilarious.

Learning some history:

Watching some TV:

Discussing the cinema:

Spoiling a BBC series:

What Harry and the gang really want:


Emily said...

Oh my goodness, you described teaching my 1st grade son EXACTLY right! How?! You can't imagine how relieved I am to know I'm not the only one...but I do feel bad for you, too.
Yesterday he took over an hour to do one MCP math page. He's supposed to do two, but I would have killed him if we tried so we didn't. Today, he apparently asked his three littlest siblings if they wanted to watch him do his math. Unbeknownst to me (I was doing cow chores), he did today's work and the remainder of yesterday's while his admiring audience looked on-and he got it all right. I sit beside him too, but I guess I am not wowed enough to stroke his ego enough to motivate him. I wish I'd been there to see the reactions of the 3 year old twins as he wrote each crooked answer with my red teacher's pen. I need in on their secret.

Thanks a lot for posting your thoughts on CHC. I was thinking about trying it next year because I am worried that my current system of cobbling and fudging curriculum is inadequate and difficult to plan lessons. I didn't like Seton when I tried it last year for basically the same reasons you dislike CHC, plus I felt it was academically weak. I think I am going to pull myself together and plan next year using Mater Amabilis and Ambleside instead of trying CHC. Another thing I didn't like about Seton, was even the stuff like readers which should have been reusable for the next child, was so poorly bound that one use destroyed it. For the prices these places charge, they should use better paper and bindings. Poor academics poorly housed with about 250 pictures of Jesus per book does not equal quality Catholic education to me.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

CHC and Seton both turned me off for those reasons.

One of the most maddening things about homeschooling is the inconsistency of what works and what doesn't. Yesterday what worked was Bella helping Ben with his math while I did French with Sophie. Today Bella was much too distracted to help with math and I couldn't get them both on the same page. So much for what seemed like the beginning of a beautiful thing.

At least Sophie is finally proficient enough in English to be mostly able to do Duolingo with a little help from me. It was much too hard last time we tried. I'm still looking for the magic bullet for math. I guess it comes down to discipline for me, too. Sticking butts in chairs is hard. I look around and wonder at all these homeschooling families who have time for daily outings and sports and wonder if they also get through math in a timely manner. What is slipping in their house? Because from over here I cannot see how they do all that outing every single week and still get the necessary academics done.

Sarah said...

I have read here for years (circa the Austin Diocese Homeschool Mass issues), but finally joining the conversation.

I am reading this while hiding in the bathroom and collecting my sanity. The children are setting the table for dinner. The 5th grader is stillllllllllll working on the last of her 4th grade math. (Math is hard for her, so that's a small part of it.) The KG'er is good a focusing, when her 3yr old sister isn't distracting or causing havoc elsewhere. However, KG has assumed 5th graders moaning and groaning attitude towards school, even when she LIKES the learning. *facepalm* I mean, seriously, HOW HOW HOW HOW in the world are you able to instill discipline in the older one while working with the younger, all while keeping the 3yr old alive and the house standing? The sheer stubborn refusal to do the work is mind boggling. It's not can't (well, most of the time. Sometimes, she just needs extra help in math), it's WON'T.

And then, how do YOU as a mother, handle your frustration so that they don't learn additional bad behaviors?

tl;dr - Thank you for showing what normal homeschooling looks like. I'm glad I'm not alone.

Arkanabar Ilarsadin said...

It's not too late to teach proper handwriting, especially to your cursive enthusiast!!!

For decades, since before I was born, we haven't bothered to teach proper handwriting technique. The most vital thing is to teach your children *arm writing*, i.e., to use muscles from ABOVE the elbow to do the writing. Every muscle from the elbow down should be fixed and, ideally, really relaxed. The trick is to get a pen that requires no pressure beyond its own weight, e.g. a fountain pen (individual pens can be had for $4-5; packs of 4, 5, or 10 of some models can be had for under $15).

You can retrain yourself in this as well. The benefit is that you can write for hours without your hands cramping.

Foxfier said...

But in general, I've found over the years, with my own children, that when they balk and fuss at schoolwork, it's simply that they'd rather not be doing schoolwork.

Agrblebargarakjhda, THANK YOU.

You would not BELIEVE how hard it is to get even my mom...who is a trained teacher, for heaven's realize this.

Sometimes yes, even her PERFECT granddaughters are being stubborn brats. I know she understood that for her perfect children.... ;)


For cursive-- my 7 year old will do these work sheets every so often, and I wrote out a cheat sheet for her and told her that if she filled out the work books in cursive, she didn't have to do other lessons.

So far, it works....

Jenny said...

"Poor academics poorly housed with about 250 pictures of Jesus per book does not equal quality Catholic education to me."

Genuine chuckle. This is exactly my impression of Seton. I haven't used much from them, but the pickings look slim to me. Seton has a reputation in some circles here of being extremely rigorous and I blink in incomprehension at this notion. Are we looking at the same books?

We have a similar dynamic with the moaning and stomping when it is time to get schoolwork done. I have found that the earlier in the day, the better it is. But I can't help all of them with all of there work in the golden hour of 10am to 11am. Someone gets to moan every day.

Karen Edmisten said...

Last Monday when I told my 14 yr. old that our Christmas break was over and it was time to start math again, she responded with a Hamilton quote: "I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory."

Yup. Sums up math at our house.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

"Seton has a reputation in some circles here of being extremely rigorous"

I think people are mistaking the amount of work the children have to do for academic rigor. Oh look how busy they are and how long it takes them to get all their work done! This is a hard program. It must be very rigorous. Loading kids up with busywork isn't necessarily the same thing as academic rigor, but many people don't really know the difference.

Son Mom said...

My kids are in school, but there are plenty of times when homework time sounds just the same! I always had this rosy romantic vision of myself patiently bending over my children, lovingly tutoring them when they needed help with their homework, when so often the reality more involves my getting frustrated incredibly fast as they moan and groan over something simple that could have been done in 5 minutes. I think your point is important that sometimes boredom and frustration are an unavoidable part of learning something new. It is good to have different teaching techniques and there are ways to make learning more engaging and fun, but there is no way to avoid all tedium. And being able to persist through that is an important life skill! Anyone that has tried to learn to play a musical instrument knows that the early learning stage always has a certain level of boredom (and at any level you still have scales and basic exercises that can be tedious but are important).

I agree with your assessment of the "super-Catholic" homeschool materials. My youngest brother was homeschooled through 8th grade with Seton, and as I was a stay at home mom with my own small children at the time, I would often be at my parents' house when he was working on his schoolwork and would look over his books. I remember being really turned off by what felt like hitting kids over the head with Catholicism all the time - Catholic handwriting words! Catholic math problems! And having mixed-race children, I had become accutely aware of the value of having more diverse literature for kids and was not a big fan of the old reading books in which "Our Friends in Other Lands," might be the only type of story in which you ever had non-white people appear. My brother is in college now (a conservative Catholic college so it's not like he's being brainwashed by horrible liberal professors, LOL) and is very ciritical of those types of homeschooling curricula.